U.S. Attorney Files Civil Rights Suit Against Westchester Developer And Obtains Injunction Requiring Complexes Under Construction To Be Fully Accessible To People With Disabilities
Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced today that the United States has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against GINSBURG DEVELOPMENT COMPANIES (“GINSBURG DEVELOPMENT”) to require it to remedy conditions at two properties in Rockland County to make them accessible to people with disabilities and to ensure that four properties under construction by GINSBURG DEVELOPMENT in Westchester County will be accessible. In connection with that lawsuit, the United States has obtained a court-ordered preliminary injunction, to which GINSBURG DEVELOPMENT consented. The injunction, which was approved and entered today by U.S. District Judge Nelson S. Román, requires GINSBURG DEVELOPMENT to make four Westchester rental complexes currently under development accessible. The lawsuit will continue with respect to the two remaining Rockland County properties, which have already been fully constructed.
U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said: “With today’s lawsuit and injunction, we seek to ensure that properties constructed by Ginsburg Development are accessible to those with disabilities, as the law requires. Developers in this District should know that this Office will use all available tools to enforce the FHA’s basic mandate that developers construct residential buildings accessible to people with disabilities.”
The Fair Housing Act’s (“FHA”) accessible design and construction provisions require multifamily housing complexes constructed after January 1993 to have basic features accessible to persons with disabilities. According to the allegations in the Complaint, GINSBURG DEVELOPMENT recently designed and constructed rental complexes that have a number of inaccessible features, including excessively high thresholds interfering with accessible routes into and within individual units, insufficient spaces in bathrooms and kitchens for people in wheelchairs, and doors in both individual units and common areas that are not wide enough to accommodate people in wheelchairs.
The Complaint filed by the United States seeks to require GINSBURG DEVELOPMENT to make retrofits at two completed complexes known as Parkside and Riverside, in Haverstraw, New York, to modify its policies, procedures, and training, and to pay a civil penalty. The lawsuit further seeks compensation for persons who have been victims of the inaccessible conditions at Parkside and Riverside. As explained in a letter filed with the Court on September 26, GINSBURG DEVELOPMENT is in settlement negotiations with the United States to resolve these claims against the two properties that have already been constructed.
The preliminary injunction, entered on September 28, 2016, requires GINSBURG DEVELOPMENT to retain an experienced accessibility consultant as the FHA Reviewer for the four Westchester developments that are still under construction – Saw Mill Lofts, Harbor Square Crossings, River Tides, and 1177 Warburton Avenue. Pursuant to the injunction, GINSBURG DEVELOPMENT must have all its designs analyzed by the FHA Reviewer for accessibility, arrange for the FHA Reviewer to conduct site visits to identify inaccessible conditions resulting from construction decisions, and allow the United States to monitor its development efforts.
The case is being handled by the Office’s Civil Rights Unit. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Li Yu, Natasha Teleanu, Jessica Jean Hu, and Jacob Lillywhite are in charge of the case.